Of Procrastination and Plateaus


About 10 years ago (maybe more)  I happened to pick out Martha Beck’s Expecting Adam from the local library’s bookshelf, which led me to search out more of her writing. An especially novel and compelling view she wrote about was on procrastination. My interpretation of what she was saying is that procrastination is the way that the wiser part of ourselves tries to protect us from making commitments to directions that are not right for us. After reading Beck, I’ve embraced procrastination like a friend who helps me keep my actions aligned to my goals and values. When I can exercise even a modicum of self-awareness I let my procrastination help me fine tune the direction of my energies so that I am able to resist leading myself astray.

I’ve been procrastinating about posting for the last few week because there is something, other that what I had planned, that I want to write about.

It’s about when I’m plateauing with my work,. Since writing about this feels uncomfortable to me,  I’ve been trying to dismiss the idea of writing this post. After weeks of not writing, it occurs to me that avoidance is not an option.

I want to write about what I’ve come to believe about plateaus, as this belief largely defines the way that I move through my days.

First, a  bit of context.

I am just now finishing up something that I thought would take about 3 hours. Instead it has, so far, taken me 3 full days of steady work. I really am just about done. But as the hours started piling up, as I was feeling like I was making absolutely no progress, I started to think about how often I am in the position of feeling like I am working without any results whatsoever. I make mistakes. I try out ideas that don’t go anywhere. I’m indecisive. I get tired.  My work area gets chaotic and I can’t find anything. ARgh.

Then I clean up my work area. Depending how long I’ve been at it or if I have a deadline, I may then take a break, or may keep working. Maybe I feel frustrated, maybe I’m getting impatient, but what I do NOT do is retreat. This is not procrastination. It’s something completely different. I know this territory well. I am on a plateau.

Here’s what I know about plateaus. It may look like I’m not making any progress. In fact everything that I do when I’m plateauing might be discarded. Actually, that’s what usually happens. But something else is going on. I know that if I just keep working, something wonderful is going to happen. And it does. Every time. Even though it seems like the plateau is lasting forever, it doesn’t last forever.

It seems like everything that I do, everything I try to learn, everything that I create, takes me so much longer than seems reasonable. I stay with things because this is the only way to get where I want to be.  Plateaus are the gatekeepers to my next levels, so I just keep plodding plodding plodding along. Happily, I love where I end up each time.

There. I’ve written this. Now I can get back to work.






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